Dictators spend a lot of time trying to control every aspect of what goes on in their country. But do they spend enough time maintaining a healthy diet and fitness regimen? Often their people go without enough to eat, but these men had the choice of dining on whatever they wanted. Many opted for simple diets that reflected their humble origins. Others hosted decadent feasts with rich foods and alcohol.
Health Fitness Revolution researched the eating and fitness habits of notorious dictators, past and present, to see if they lived a healthy lifestyle.
Adolf Hitler, Germany
- Hitler suffered from chronic gas and indigestion. His digestive issues eventually convinced him to become a vegetarian. His indigestion got so bad in the months before his death that he was reduced to a diet of mashed potatoes and clear broth.
- Before Hitler became a vegetarian, he showed some carnivorous instincts. One chef recalls multiple occasions in the 1930s when Hitler dined on fledgling pigeon stuffed with tongue, liver and pistachio nuts.
- Hitler was so paranoid that he had 15 young women taste every one of his meals for poison before he dined. One tester recalled that ‘the food was delicious, only the best vegetables, asparagus, bell peppers, everything you can imagine. And always with a side of rice or pasta.’
- Hitler did not lead a healthy lifestyle. Even though the Nazi party promoted a cult of physical fitness, the Fuhrer had no interest in sports or games of any kind and his only exercise came from long walks and pacing around the room.
- In addition to his lack of exercise, Hiter abused drugs. He took over 20 pills a day, most devoid of any medical use whatsoever. He also injected methamphetamines every morning just to get out of bed and required a large dose of valium to fall asleep. Some sources say he was one of the first users of anabolic steroids.
Idi Amin, Uganda
- The Ugandan dictator ruled over the south African country for most of the 1970’s. A delusional megalomaniac, he referred to himself as, “His Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular and the Uncrowned King of Scotland.”
- It was rumored that he was a cannibal and kept the heads of his political enemies in his fridge. When confronted on his cannibalism, he replied that he didn’t like human flesh because it was “too salty.”
- Too much salt did not prevent him from enjoying fast food. His son claimed that Idi Amin loved to eat pizza and meat, but most of all was a fan of Kentucky Fried Chicken. His taste for fast-food led to obesity, which put a strain on his arthritic knees.
- Amin also ate over 40 oranges every day because he believed that they granted him sexual prowess.
- The hefty dictator did manage to get some exercise. He was fond of swimming and playing basketball.
Mao Zhedong, China
- Mao led the Communist takeover of China following World War II. His modernization programs caused a massive famine that claimed the lives of between 20 and 40 million Chinese citizens.
- His favorite food was hong shao rou (red braised pork), which is a rural dish consisting of cubes of braised pork belly glazed with caramelised sugar and covered with Shaoxing rice wine. Propaganda portrayed this dish as a brain food that allowed Mao to defeat his enemies.
- The communist dictator despised Chinese Haute Cuisine and preferred simple foods.
- Mao lived a largely sedentary lifestyle, spending much time in bed. He did have an indoor swimming pool, which was rare for the time.
- Despite his own inactivity, Mao created a fitness regimen for his people to keep them in shape and prepare them for an invasion by outside forces.
Benito Mussolini, Italy
- Mussolini did not indulge in his country’s revered cuisine. He rarely ate pasta or meat and called French food “useless.” His favorite food was a salad made of raw garlic and olive oil, which he thought was good for his heart. His wife thought it made him smell unbearable.
- Drank up to three quarts of milk a day to quell his stomach aches. Ironically, he tried to hide his milk habit from Hitler, fearing that the Fuhrer would perceive this as “unfascist.”
- The Italian ruler maintained an image of personal fitness. He spent much of his time running, riding, fencing, and playing tennis and football. At military parades he would run up and down the lines of soldiers.
- Some sources close to Mussolini claim that he never enjoyed personal fitness, but just did the activities to promote his image as a physically virile fascist leader.
Pol Pot, Cambodia
- This murderous Communist revolutionary caused the death of 1 out of 7 of his countrymen and women.
- The leader preferred to eat simple peasant foods. His typical diet consisted of venison, fresh fruits, and wild boor.
- Pol Pot consumed moderate quantities of Chinese wine and brandy.
- His cook claims that the Cambodian dictator enjoyed cobra stew. To prepare the dish, the cook beheaded a cobra and dried it out in the sun so that the poison would dissipate.
Nicolae Ceaușescu, Romania
- During his repressive 20 year reign, Nicolae Ceaușescu followed a repetitive and monotonous daily routine. He ate his meals at the same time every day and enjoyed a midday nap.
- Luxury food items were practically nonexistent in Romania during the Communist regime. Ceaușescu ate better than his people, but also kept to a simple, balanced diet of mostly vegetables and dairy products. He didn’t drink any fizzy drinks or eat any chocolate.
- Did not smoke and did light cardio, such as going on walks or hunts. The hunts, however, were staged. His advisors left sleeping pills coated with honey in the forest to tranquilize bears for Ceaușescu to kill at will.
Josef Stalin, Soviet Union
- The infamous Soviet dictator ruled with an iron fist and was very paranoid. Still, he indulged in cuisine from his native Georgia. He occasionally held all-night banquets that served Georgian sweet wines, pickled cheese, and savory meats.
- Took a liking to the prized Russian nelma freshwater fish during his time as a Bolshevik revolutionary. He would continue to eat this simple food once he became leader of the Soviet Union.
- As Stalin forcibly modernized Russia, he feared invasions from fascist Germany and the capitalist Western powers. To keep his starving population in shape, Stalin implemented a fitness program in the 1930’s called “Ready for Labor and Defense,” or GTO. This program required all citizens of the U.S.S.R. to enter competitive athletic competitions. These athletic competitions included swimming, running, and grenade throwing.
Bashar Al-Assad, Syria
- Al-Assad tries to eat healthy in his bunker beneath war-torn Syria. The dictator has been photographed enjoying drinks like a mint and lemon tea, basic mediterranean foods, and staples of western cuisine.
- His wife, Asma Al-Assad, is described as a “fitness fanatic.” She wears calorie-counting fitness gadgets to monitor her weight and ships in health products and foods from western nations.
- Assad’s father-in-law is a Cardiologist, and Assad was studying to become a doctor before his older brother’s unexpected death put him next in line for Syrian leadership.
- The Assad’s recently invited youth powerlifting champion Maryana Naumova to visit them in Syria. The 16-year old Russian girl bench-pressed 330lbs. earlier this year, impressing the Assads.
Napoleon Bonaparte, France
- Long thought to have died from poisoning, a recent autopsy reveals that Napoleon likely died from stomach cancer. Scientists and historians attribute the stomach cancer to Napoleon’s poor diet: “The risk might have been further increased by his diet, which probably included salt-preserved foods, thoroughly roasted meats and few fresh fruits and vegetables, standard fare for long military campaigns.”
- Napoleon ate only when hungry when on campaign. His preferred meal was a simple fare consisting of beef, beans, and white bread, washed down with cheap Chambertin wine.
- The conqueror feasted on roasted chickens when they were available. Once he was exiled he did indulge in more decadent feasts full of rich foods, which likely contributed to his weight gain.
- Formal military training meant Napoleon exercised and drilled from the time he was a teenager. He got plenty of exercise as a youth from wrestling and horse riding.
Kim Jong-un, North Korea
- According to Health Fitness Revolution, Kim Jong-un is the world’s unhealthiest leader.
- Since assuming power in 2011, Kim Jong-un has ballooned in size due to his extravagant tastes and sedentary lifestyle. His favorite food is the calorie-dense Emmantel Swiss cheese.
- The Korean dictator is also a binge drinker, known to knock back two bottles of champagne in a single sitting. He is frequently photographed smoking cigarettes.
- He recently reappeared in the public eye with a limp and a cane, which some experts say could be a sign of gout. The limp could also be because of a fractured ankle due to his quick weight gain.
- Kim Jong-il, the previous leader of North Korea, is thought to have died from diabetes and high blood pressure, linked to his excessive consumption of French cognac and fine foods. Kim Jong-un is at a genetic risk for these diseases and should reform his lifestyle or risk getting them.